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"Apples, sweet and sour" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, November 2009

It amounts to calisthenics for gardeners, this rather undignified crawling, crouching, reaching, shaking, climbing, and contorting that constitutes apple picking. Apple picking at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, that is. No, we're not your average apple orchard with neat rows, conveniently quaffed trees, and glossy apples. Here, apple harvests take on a bit of the unexpected.

With the leaves changing and the night's becoming cooler, preparation for fall is underway. One sure sign of autumn's approach: apple branches weighted down with growing fruit, the ground littered with eager produce.

So off we go with bushel baskets in our arms, searching out our scattered trees: the sweet ones, the tart ones, the wild ones, the old ones, the young ones, the pink striped ones, the deep red ones, the mottled green ones. Like kids on Mother Nature's jungle gym we stretch between tree limbs for ripened fruit, then search on our hands and knees for apples already taken to the ground.

We gather up everything that is fair-to-middling and better. There are a variety of colors, of sizes, of shapes, and of flavors. Some double as hobbit-homes for worms, others as the nectar of multi-legged insects. Some are just plain rotten, others bruised by gravity's pull to the ground. Rarely are our apples shiny and smooth, nor clean and predictable.

It is, I'll venture, a metaphor for D Acres' own efforts at sustainability and local living.

But just as hours of work, gumption, and tenacity have yielded a rewarding lifestyle of simplicity and seasonality here at the farm, a few hours of cutting, coring, boiling, simmering, and cooking results in a similar, if smaller-scale, reward. A day dedicated to preservation turns our bountiful – if slightly misshapen – apple harvest into the delectable sauces, butters, chutneys, and relishes that will delight our taste buds through next spring and summer. The colorful jars of sweet, spicy, tart, and tangy treats will be our reminder of seasonal change and the bountiful harvest it brings.

You, too, can keep a piece of the autumn season with you through the year. Make some applesauce. Try a wild apple growing on the roadside. Come to D Acres' apple cider-making workshop this Sunday, October 4 at 1pm. Discover what sustainability could mean to you. Perhaps it is eating a real apple, speckled and small; perhaps it's finding your way to beautify your corner of the world. Whatever it may be, seek simplicity, with the taste of the seasons on your palate.

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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